Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org May 26, 2011
Spacer
AGC Home Page
Email our Editor
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Subscribe
Printer Friendly
AGC Political Toolkit
Take Action!
On the Inside
Highlights in This Week's Issue
Tax
3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract House and Senate Cosponsors
AGC Member Testifies on Repeal of 3 Percent Withholding
Congress
House Approves Measure Dealing Setback to Executive Order on Federal Disclosure
Another FAA Extension Approved
Surface Transportation Authorization Update
Senate Votes Down House Budget and Obama Budget
Democrat Wins Special Election, Redistricting Fights Could Dominate Summer
Environment
Draft Wetlands Guidance Provides Federal Agenciesí Views on the Reach of the Clean Water Act
Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted; USACE Ready to Provide Emergency Response
Federal
AGC Project Labor Agreement Policy Update
Events
TCC Fly-In Urges Congressional Action on Transportation Legislation
Highlights in This Week's Issue
 

Support for repeal of 3 percent withholding law grows as AGC testifies before Congress in support of repeal. Congress gives the Administration a setback on disclosure requirements.Congress sets the Administration a setback on disclosure requirements.  AGC members lobby Congress on surface transportation authorization and Congress passes another FAA extension. The Senate votes down both the House Republican and Obama budget proposals. Draft wetlands guidance provides Federal agencies’ views on the reach of the Clean Water Act.  Finally, AGC comments on two Project Labor Agreement solicitations from the USACE in Hawaii and Alabama. Return to Top

Tax
3 Percent Repeal Bills Continue to Attract House and Senate Cosponsors
 

The House cosponsor number has grown from 36 during the week of the AGC convention to 128 this week.  This week’s effort was aided by visits during the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-in where AGC members met with members of Congress on funding for transportation investment, water infrastructure investment and the repeal of the 3% withholding law.


The most recent additions to the House cosponsor list are:

Rep Jordan, Jim [OH-4] - 5/24/2011
Rep Palazzo, Steven M. [MS-4] - 5/24/2011
Rep Boustany, Charles W., Jr. [LA-7] - 5/24/2011
Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] - 5/24/2011
Rep Ribble, Reid J. [WI-8] - 5/24/2011
Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] - 5/24/2011
Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] - 5/24/2011
Rep Mulvaney, Mick [SC-5] - 5/24/2011
Rep Landry, Jeffrey M. [LA-3] - 5/24/2011
Rep Roskam, Peter J. [IL-6] - 5/24/2011
Rep Himes, James A. [CT-4] - 5/24/2011
Rep Altmire, Jason [PA-4] - 5/24/2011


We also added an additional Senate cosponsor:


Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] - 5/23/2011


If you know these members of the House and/or Senate, please send them a thank you for cosponsoring.


To send a letter to your member of Congress and Senators, click here.


For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at
shoafj@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC Member Testifies on Repeal of 3 Percent Withholding
 

AGC member and Municipal & Utilities Division Chair Mike Murphy (Turner Murphy Company, Rock Hill, S.C.) testified in favor of repealing the 3 percent withholding at a hearing before the Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee.


The hearing examined the effect of Section 511 of the Tax Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, which will require federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent from all payments for goods and services purchased. The Subcommittee considered witness testimony that Section 511 will cost more to implement than it would generate in revenue, restrict the already tight cash flow of small companies, and destroy jobs.  Murphy expressed concern over the withholding requirement saying, “I believe Congress is making it tougher and tougher for my company to stay in business…This provision has nothing to do with my company’s tax liability, it is just an accounting gimmick that whitewashes over the real cost of government while leaving small companies like mine holding the bag.” 


There also was a bipartisan press conference following the hearing, where Members of the Small Business Committee and sponsors of the House bill to repeal three percent withholding, H.R. 674, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Wally Herger (R-Calif.) were able to come together to express concern with this requirement and promote the repeal of 3 percent withholding.


To send a letter to your member of Congress and Senators asking them to support repeal efforts, click here.

For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at shoafj@agc.org or (703) 837-3350 or Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or
berrys@agc.org Return to Top

Congress
House Approves Measure Dealing Setback to Executive Order on Federal Disclosure
 

The House approved an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill that would bar federal agencies from requiring the corporate disclosure of campaign donations as a condition for getting federal contracts. Passage of the amendment could deal a major setback to the Obama Administration’s efforts to make federal contractors disclose their political contributions. The amendment passed by a vote of 261-163. Twenty-six Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the amendment. AGC sent a letter to all members on Congress asking them to support the amendment. In addition, AGC signed on to an industry-wide coalition letter asking the same.

Rep. Cole, along with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), introduced on May 26 stand-along legislation that would also bar such disclosures and making them part of the procurement process.

AGC previously submitted testimony for a hearing held jointly between the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Small Business entitled, “Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Business?”  

In addition, AGC raised similar concerns in a letter sent by CEO Stephen Sandherr directly to President Obama. That letter stated that the proposed EO, titled “Disclosure of Political Spending by Government Contractors,” is unnecessary, noting that there is no evidence to indicate that political contributions are influencing the award of federal contractors.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org Return to Top

Another FAA Extension Approved
 

Congress this week passed the 19th short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization.  The extension, which runs through June 30, 2011, extends Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes and Airport Improvement Program contract authority.  This latest extension will give the House and Senate committees additional time to negotiate on their unresolved issues.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or
oneills@agc.org Return to Top

Surface Transportation Authorization Update
 

As AGC members deployed on Capitol Hill this week to urge their members of Congress to enact a timely multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, Senate Environment and Public Works  (EPW) Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), along with Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.), issued a statement on Wednesday saying that that have made “great progress” in moving a surface transportation reauthorization bill. 

The “highlights” of the bill were very short on detail, but the statement noted that the Senate EPW bill will fund programs at current levels, eliminate earmarks, reform the program, strengthen the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program, and expedite project delivery.  Senator Boxer then held a press conference where she provided a few more details.  Specifically, she put a dollar figure for a six year bill as $339.2 billion but left the door open to a shorter bill at lower funding levels.  During visits with their Senators, several AGC members were told the Senate is seriously considering a two-year bill. Boxer had intended to markup a bill by Memorial Day.  It is speculated that the timing of this update was done in lieu of marking up a bill.  Boxer is now saying she intends to move the legislation out of the EPW Committee by the July 4 Senate recess.

On the House side, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) addressed AGC members at the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-in and reiterated his goal of moving a six-year authorization bill that will be written to reflect the revenue coming into the Highway Trust Fund.  Mica would like to introduce his bill in June and have it considered on the House floor in July. It is estimated Mica’s bill could lead to an up to 30 percent cut in the federal-aid highway program.

In order to try to address this funding gap, the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act (link to attachment) was recently introduced by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).  The bill dedicates 20 percent of the revenues from Outer Continental Shelf offshore exploration leases and royalties into the highway trust fund (as well as clean and drinking water SRFs and Army Corps projects).  The bill - although very well-intended - has a steep climb before it can be considered as a viable way to fund our surface transportation programs. 

AGC will continue to work with the House and Senate Committees in moving a reauthorization bill that at the minimum maintains current funding levels.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or
oneills@agc.org Return to Top

Senate Votes Down House Budget and Obama Budget
 

On Wednesday, by a vote of 40-57, the Senate voted down the House-passed fiscal year 2012 budget resolution.  Five Republicans - Scott Brown (Mass.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and Rand Paul (Ky.) - and every Democrat voted against the budget. 

Following that vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell forced a vote on President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget.  The Obama budget vote fell by 0-97.  Democrats sought cover for voting against the Obama budget because the president essentially offered new deficit reduction numbers in a speech last month. 

The Democrats in the Senate have yet to offer up a budget plan of their own  and do not plan to do so before July.  Instead they are waiting to see the product of Vice President Biden’s bipartisan deficit reduction talks.  All of these votes and deficit reduction talks are taking place under the large shadow of the need to raise our $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which was hit last week on or near July 8.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org Return to Top

Democrat Wins Special Election, Redistricting Fights Could Dominate Summer
 

Kathy Hochul (D) won a special election Tuesday to replace former New York Representative Chris Lee (R), who resigned earlier this year. Hochul beat assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) in a hotly contested race. Looking toward next November’s election, the magic number for Democrats to take control of the House is reduced from a net gain of 25 to 24. Another unpredictable special election on September 13 will be held to fill the House seat vacated by Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) in Nevada’s second district.

While the general election is next year, plenty of action will occur in 2011 as many state legislatures are in the middle of congressional redistricting fights. Only five states - Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma - have completed the process while others may not be decided until next year or will have courts make the final decisions. Already, it is likely that the courts will decide maps in Colorado, Minnesota and Nevada.  Courts in Mississippi have ruled that their 2011 state legislative elections will be held under maps passed last decade.  Lawsuits have been filed or have been threatened in a host of states, including Texas, Colorado, South Carolina and Virginia.

For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org Return to Top

Environment
Draft Wetlands Guidance Provides Federal Agenciesí Views on the Reach of the Clean Water Act
 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on May 2, 2011, a new draft “Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.”  The proposed guidance intends to clarify the extent of federal control over construction work in “waters of the United States,” which has been a continued source of confusion following competing decisions in two U.S. Supreme Court cases.

The proposed guidance broadly interprets the Supreme Court decisions and, if adopted, will result in significantly more federally controlled waters that would require Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permits.  Contractors and land owners must obtain Section 404 permits before re-depositing dredged material during excavation or placing fill material in “waters of the United States,” including wetlands that are adjacent to “navigable” waters or their tributaries. (See, AGC’s Environmental Observer article, January 2011, for more background information.)

The proposed guidance and related information are available on EPA’s website.  Public comments are due July 1, 2011.  The final 2011 guidance is intended to supersede a 2003 “Joint Memorandum” and a 2008 Joint Guidance memo that currently remain in effect.

The agencies’ decision to issue the 2011 guidance instead of immediately initiating rulemaking has been criticized by members of Congress and representatives from both industry and environmental interest groups.   The agencies have said that they will eventually propose revisions of existing regulations, but they have not indicated when they will do so.

The proposed guidance addresses the scope of the CWA’s key term “waters of the United States” for all CWA provisions that use the term, including the Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, the Section 311 oil spill program, the water quality standards and total maximum daily load programs under Section 303, and the Section 401 State water quality certification process.  The existing 2003 and 2008 guidance documents are limited to CWA Section 404 determinations.

Click here for a summary of the key points of the draft guidance.  Click here for a fact sheet regarding the scope and impact of the guidance on regulated entities and the public.  These documents were prepared (and are being circulated) by members of the Water Advocacy Coalition (WAC), a coalition of 31 industry organizations from a wide range of industry sectors).  AGC is a long-standing WAC member and is currently working in that capacity to request an extension of time to comment on the proposed guidance and in drafting a formal industry response to the agencies.

For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis at (703) 837-5332 or pilconisl@agc.org Return to Top

Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted; USACE Ready to Provide Emergency Response
 

An “above average” hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin -- which includes the entire East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States -- this year according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service.

As with every hurricane season, this outlook underscores the importance of having a hurricane preparedness plan in place. Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

Despite 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes in 2010 (the second most hurricanes on record), none of the hurricanes made landfall on the U.S. East or Gulf coasts.

May 23 through 27 is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Information on individual and family preparedness can be found at www.ready.gov and www.hurricanes.gov/prepare.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is an integral part of the federal government’s unified national response to disasters and emergencies and sends hundreds of people to respond to disasters around the world. USACE assists the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency by coordinating and organizing public works and engineering-related support. Although hurricanes did not make landfall along the East or Gulf coast in 2010, USACE and its contractor partners stand ready to respond as follows:

  • FEMA assigns USACE missions to include: debris management, water/ice procurement, commodities distribution, temporary housing, temporary roofing, emergency power, infrastructure assessment, and support to urban search and rescue.
  • The Corps organizes its response by having specially trained teams ready to perform public works and engineering-related missions. The Corps has more than 40 specially trained response teams ready to perform a wide range of missions.
  • USACE uses pre-awarded contracts that can be quickly activated for missions such as water, ice, temporary roofing, generator installation, and debris management.
  • In preparation for the 2011 hurricane season, USACE conducted several hurricane exercises – both internally and with local, state and federal agencies – across our organization.
  • When disasters occur, it is not just a local Corps district or office that responds. Personnel and other resources are mobilized across the country to carry out our response missions.

AGC members across the country are ready to respond should such storms occur this season.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org Return to Top

Federal
AGC Project Labor Agreement Policy Update
 

On May 20, 2011, AGC sent a letter to the Hawaii District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing comment on their solicitation regarding the potential use of project labor agreements (PLAs) for the FY11 PN65650 USARPAC Command and Control Facility, Phase 1, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, project.

On May 26, 2011, AGC sent a letter to the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing comment on their solicitation regarding the potential use of project labor agreements (PLAs) for a project in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

These letters are the latest of AGC's continuing efforts to educate government agencies about PLA issues and implications. While AGC neither supports nor opposes PLAs in general, AGC strongly opposes government mandates for PLAs on publicly funded construction projects. AGC is committed to free and open competition in all public construction markets and believes that publicly-funded contracts should be awarded without regard to the lawful labor relations policies and practices of the government contractor.

Congress is also moving to limit the use of government-mandated project labor agreements.  On May 24, 2011, the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to the FY 2012 Military Construction/VA Appropriations bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to require by contract the use of a PLA for projects funded during fiscal year 2012. While this provision is now part of the legislation, it is expected that the amendment will be challenged when the bill reaches the House floor for final consideration in the next week or so.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing June 3 on legislation currently pending by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) that ensures federal agencies awarding construction contracts do not: (1) require or prohibit a bidder, offeror, contractor, or subcontractor from entering into, or adhering to, agreements with a labor organization, with respect to that construction project or another related construction project; or (2) otherwise discriminate against or give preference to such a party because it did or did not become a signatory or otherwise adhere to such an agreement. AGC general counsel Mike Kennedy will offer testimony in support of the legislation and offer details on AGC’s position on government-mandated PLAs during the hearing.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org Return to Top

Events
TCC Fly-In Urges Congressional Action on Transportation Legislation
 

Nearly 500 construction industry executives participated in the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) fly-in this week, visiting with Senators and Representatives about the need to pass long-term transportation reauthorization legislation with additional revenue to prevent a significant drop in federal transportation investment.

At a legislative briefing to prepare for the visits, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) reported that a six-year reauthorization bill is in the final stages of being drafted and should be available by mid to late June. Chairman Mica said he intends to have a six-year bill passed by the House by the end of the summer. He indicated that funding will be set at levels supported by current Highway Trust Fund revenue, which is about 30 percent below current fiscal year levels, but that he plans significant reforms to the program’s administration that will allow the nation to do more with less.

Ranking T&I Committee Democrat Nick Rahall (W.V.) called for increased funding and said that all options for raising the needed revenue, including an increase in the motor fuels fee, should be on the table for consideration. He fully supports the effort to reform the program’s operation. Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez detailed the administration’s request for increases in transportation infrastructure and pledged to work with Congress to identify a source to raise the needed revenue.

AGC participants were given separate briefings to prepare for their visits, which covered 3 percent withholding requirements, water infrastructure investment and transportation reauthorization. A special presentation by a media consultant explained garner support from the public for increased transportation investment.   

For more information, please contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org Return to Top

AGC Townhouse, 53 D Street SE • Washington, DC 20003 • 202.547.1625 (phone) • 202.547.1635 (fax)• www.agc.org
AGC Home | About AGC | Advocacy | Industry Topics | Construction Markets | Programs & Events | Career Development | News & Media

To ensure delivery of AGC’s Construction Legislative Week in Review, please add 'communications@agc.org' to your email address book or Safe Sender List. If you are still having problems receiving our communications, visit our white-listing page for more details.

© Copyright The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. All Rights Reserved.